Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Delightful Blues

I have loved the blues since I graduated from high school.  I think I just realized why.

I don't mean to be melodramatic.  My life is good and fortunate; nothing like the lives of those who wrote the original blues songs.  Moreover, the blues is not a simple wallowing in one's troubles.

Some blues songs are sad; some are happy.  But the divers moods of blues are characteristically expressed through 1) a soulful call and response of voice and instruments, 2) a driving rhythm.



I hear this as an expression of spit and vinegar in response to divers life-circumstances.

The call and response is like our real-life wrestling with our circumstances.  The persistence of the rhythm is like our underlying will to persevere.  Taken together, the blues thus evokes a flexible tenacity, rather than a rigidity, in the face of life's troubles.  In this way, it gives expression to how we must be affected by what we face in life, yet how we can always choose to persevere in the face of what life gives us.  We cannot be a pillar.  But we can be a willow.

That is not all.  The blues sounds good because there is a delight in the music.  I think the reason blues can sound like wallowing to some is that it recognizes that we are not in control.  Perseverance will not always translate to victory.  We all have real difficulties and weaknesses and, anyway, none of us are God.  Blues embraces the fact that we cannot save ourselves or even the people we love.  But it is not a wallowing.  To have delight in life in the face of one's troubles requires a perspective that allows you to get outside it.  My favourite blues always evokes some such perspective in the sheer delight squeezed out of every note.

Let me move beyond blues music a bit.  We are not God, but if Jesus is God then there is reason to take delight in our trouble.  In my experience, one part of the required perspective is knowing that we are doing our best to follow his way.  Things might not seem fair and we may not succeed in every good pursuit.  Furthermore, we have to be humble about how much we are really following Jesus.  We could easily be deceiving ourselves and before God we are all equal.

But, with this in mind, making a few steps in this direction is to enter an adventure.  To defeat resentment in a key moment, to succeed in having a bit of real love for someone, is to act as a character in this adventure.  Our trouble does not go away, but slowly a sense begins to grow in us that this trouble is a part of a fully human life.

It's an adventure and we don't know what will happen.  But we are in the fight.  Even in circumstances that are awful in many ways, this allows us to feel delight: in the call and response, in the rhythm of our tenacity.

Now why don't lets delight in hearing SRV wrestle mightily with the flooding down in Texas.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

My Work Three Months Later: Beauty and Growing Pains

It has now been three and a half months since I arrived here at the Dandelion Community, and three months since my first reflection on my work.  So much has happened; it feels like a lot longer!  

Here is a bit of what I have been up to, and some reflection on it.

Teaching English


Since finishing Korean classes at the end of October, I've been teaching conversational English twice a week.  Every class, I organize the lesson around a "speech act," that is, something you do with language, like promise or warn or congratulate.  I've been teaching students expressions used in everyday English to perform or describe each speech act.  I have a short lecture, followed by activities and games.  I have a lot to learn about teaching English, but I think I hit upon a good way to organize a class about conversational English, and the students seem to enjoy it.

Preparing Fields

Dr. Kim has come up with plans for how to use Dandelion's land.  There will be two large fields devoted to farming potatoes and soy beans which will be sold to Dandelion's customers.  There will be one field full of garden boxes that students will manage individually to learn about farming and to grow their own food.  Finally, Dr. Kim wants to make the field we use to grow food for the community "the most beautiful garden in Korea," by arranging flowers among the crops.  The beauty is supposed to attract people to the community, as well as creating a space for them to rest, reflect and, ultimately, become a part of Dandelion's larger mission of simple living and helping the rural poor.

I've taken on the job of clearing the fields of weeds in preparation for all this.  It is something I know how to do and which I can do to fill my day in-between other work.  It is inspiring to me to have my work be directed toward this end and become a part of the beauty of this place.

Peculiar Beauty

Sometimes I feel like I am living in a painting.  The Dandelion Community is at the bottom of a narrow valley surrounded by high serried hills.   Fields and persimmon orchards cover the valley and parts of the hills, which also have many wooded areas.  There is a village nearby with small, traditional Korean houses. 

It is now late Autumn, and the blanket of greenery that covered everything in Summer has given way to a duskier, more variegated scene. The luscious plant-life on the valley floor, which grew even over buildings, has died or been harvested, turning everything different shades of yellow and brown.  The green arrowroot that smothered the hills has dried up, revealing the more restrained palette of pine, bamboo and by-now-bare deciduous trees.  Nearby persimmon trees dangle their bright fruits against the pale blue sky, as magpies flit quickly through the cold air in anfractuous, arcing lines.  At night, the the dark forms of houses frame the stars, and the moon is visible through the crooked branches of trees.


The beauty is so particular, so boldly peculiar: the abundance of the vegetation, the angles of interlocking branches, the movement of the stars and moon.  It's like a great painting or piece of music.  Great artwork also has this beauty-through-bold-particularity, like, for example, Bach's melodic lines.  Only later, through familiarity, does the beauty come to seem less peculiar and more iconic.

Sustaining and Transcendent Beauty

In some ways, though, this place does not feel like a painting.  For example, I could not spend a lifetime in a painting without growing tired of it, yet I do not think I would ever grow tired of the beauty of this place.  I can appreciate great art again and again, over many years.  Yet not even the greatest of human art can I appreciate continuously without taking a break from it.  But the beauty of this place is such that I would not grow tired of it. 

I have thought the same about the forests of British Columbia.

This is beauty that transcends and so sustains life.  It remains constant irrespective of what is going on with me: my successes and failures, my hopes and anxieties.  Beholding it, therefore, is a way to transcend myself and, in Wendell Berry's phrase, "rest in the grace of the world."

Some Growing Pains Being In Community


For this reason, beauty, along with friendship, is a part of my experience for which I am especially thankful.  This is all the more true because of some of the anxieties I've had as I learn better how to work in community.

One of my anxieties has come from realizing I am not wholly well-adapted to a simple, community lifestyle.  It has certainly been useful for me to know how to do labour work well.  However, living here has made me realize that who I am and what I have learned has been shaped by my privileged life in modern Canadian society.  I sometimes feel a little useless.  In particular, skills bound up with the use of the English language and manipulation of concepts, which I have developed in my life, do not appear to be very much use in making a concrete contribution to the community.  I feel lacking in practical know-how having to do with cooking, growing food, and the complexity of relationships that make up community life.  

I am improving slowly, and coming to realize that having weaknesses is OK.  Living in community  means trusting others for basic things like food, health and good relationships.  So, being in community also means being vulnerable to how well others are doing in their own walks.  As far as food and health, there is no danger of not being taken care of here.  Yet there is indeed a spiritual battle to be fought to maintain trust in others to treat you well and to not consider your weaknesses a burden.  If you do not maintain this trust, or others break it, it is all too easy to be tempted with the usual list of vices: jealousy, pride and resentment being near the top of the list.

Some Growing Pains Working In Community


Another anxiety comes from having a schedule that is largely self-regulated.  I get occasional direction and feedback, but, within the framework of regular duties, I often decide how to spend my time.  I set rules for myself and try to keep busy.  I do this partly from love of the work and partly because I would make myself miserable if I were not busy.

I think I have done fairly well at this, but sometimes I am uncertain.  To be honest, it has been disorientating to not have a regular work day followed by personal time.  Some of my anxieties are about whether I am working enough, whether I am around the community enough, how well I am doing my work, whether others consider all the work I am doing as a valuable contribution to the community.  

I also worry that seeing my work through the lens of my previous jobs may be leading me to disproportionately emphasize things like showing up on time and working hard over against things like participating in community activities where I do not contribute anything in particular, like when students go on special trips.  I have tended to choose to stay home during these outings in order to do other work or to rest.

Having this lens also creates a greater risk of under-appreciating, and, God forbid, even resenting fellow workers when they do not live up to the standards I have set for my own work.  This circumstance has meant working on questioning my own presuppositions about work, and, in addition, trying on some humility and the wisdom to know that God gives his children different gifts and different ways to serve him.

Being and Doing

Many SALT assignment descriptions warn potential SALTers that their assignment may turn out to be more about "being" than "doing."  That is, to live well with yourself, with God, and with those around you may be a more important part of your work than accomplishing projects whose good effects are immediately visible and measurable. Such warning is thought to be necessary because the West tends to over-emphasize the value of "getting things done" and under-emphasize "being with others."

Let me use the framework of being vs. doing to conclude this reflection on my work.  In the end, I think both my anxieties -- about being a good community member and doing good work -- are founded in real concerns.

On the one hand, I do need to learn better habits of "being," and some of my ideas about the value of "getting things done" need to be questioned.  Things under the heading of being -- the beauty of the world, friendship, living justly with the poor, and peacefully with enemies -- are indeed what my time here, and life in general, is all about.  Sometimes I am forgetful of this as I busily do things for my own reasons, or when I worry in a selfish way about my own lack of ability.

On the other hand, I know that work directed at a good end and performed with competence is a part of human flourishing, and that being lazy is not an option.  I want to work as hard and as well as if I were earning a wage.  As far as I'm concerned, if I did not do this, it would be a refutation of what this year is supposed to be about.  I am not here to complete an exercise in useless idealism.  I am here to try to figure out how, in a community like Dandelion, good work, done in the cause of things like beauty, love and justice, can be a reality.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

In the City, On the Mountain, Among the Community - Pictures and Stories from October

Working

Feeding chickens and collecting eggs in the morning.

Sorting and packing eggs to be sent to customers.  I've been told egg production has really picked up!  Jonghyeon is behind me and Solpa is to my left.  They both recently graduated from school and work on the farm occasionally.  Jinha in the back is in charge of the farm.

Planting garlic with students in the farm class, which is lead by my housemate and former SALTer, Wilhelmina Witt (Mina).

Just doing a little weeding around the greenhouse.  As a treeplanter I was known as "the Pounderine," and then as the "Honey Badger."  Here they call me "Hedgehog."

Last week, Jinha harvested rice.  We dried it along the road for a few days (you see this being done a lot in these parts this time of year).  In this picture, I am collecting the dried rice with Hagyeong, a high school student.

Learning Korean

Dante and I attended Korean language classes for one month at the YWCA in the city of Jinju.  In this picture, we are celebrating Chusok (a bit like Thanksgiving) as a school.  Many women from around Asia dressed up in their traditional clothes.  Dante did also.

This is my greatest work in the Korean language to date.  It is called "My family..."  I think I really nailed the last line.

"My family consists of my dad, my mother, and three younger brothers and, making us six people.  We are all Canadians, but I now live in Korea.  My younger brothers' names are Michael, David and Aaron.  Michael is a computer programmer; David and Aaron work with my dad.  These brothers are RV technicians....

I am twenty-seven years old.  There is two years difference between Michael and I, two years difference between David and Michael, and three years difference between Aaron and David.  I will go to Canada, and so see my brothers next Summer.  Because we have the same parents, we resemble each other."

Teaching at Dandelion

Korean classes are now over, and so Dante and I now have time to teach English and be more involved in the school.  This is a picture taken from a game I organized for recreation time.  It's called "Celebrity Selfie Hunt."  Students split into teams and take selfies with teachers, who hide around the community.  The team who takes selfies with all the teachers without getting caught by the security guard first wins.


Mina is holding the chicken.  Geonweon, on the left, led one student team, which also included Seongeun, between Geonweon and Mina, Hagyeong, hiding behind Mina, Jihong, behind Hagyeong, and Serin, on the far right.

Here they found Seoyeong, the Korean teacher.

At our house

These are the people I live with.  From left to right: Mina, Yehyouk, me, Dante.  Dante and Mina are both excellent cooks.

Also excellent goofballs.

Trip to the Goseon Dinosaur Museum with Dante and Mina


The Chuseok holiday lasted for more than a week at the beginning of October.  During this time, almost everyone was gone from the community.  So, we decided to spend one day exploring a dinosaur museum which was about two hours away by bus.

There were dinosaur footprints in the rock by the seaside, and models of various dinosaurs and their skeletons.  However, we were somewhat preoccupied filming the following Chicken Man episode.


 Night Out in Jinju

Some people with whom I have rubbed shoulders often enough have discovered my weakness of being absent-minded to the extent that I sometimes have no idea where I am or where I am going and must be rescued and lead back to the place where I belong.


One day, however, a teacher at the YWCA in Jinju invited me to a party celebrating the anniversary of her church.  To show everyone how brilliant I could be at going places, I decided to go.  I successfully navigated myself to the church, enjoyed a very nice evening with people I had not met before, and made it back on the last bus out of Jinju.

Methods of transportation included walking, inter-city bus, running, city bus, taxi, walking with a lady and a man, Dandelion School's Vice Principal's car, and, last but not least, a local parsimon farmer's work truck.

Later I found out that by accepting a ride from the parsimon farmer, I put myself in danger of being sold to pirates and spending the rest of days hunched over an oar in the hull of some ship (sorry Grandma).

MCC Retreat in Chuncheon


From October 19 to 22, Dante and I returned to Chuncheon with Mina for the first time since we arrived in Korea.  We got to spend time with Solga our coordinator, who is second to the left, our fellow SALTer, Allison, second to the right, as well as Jenny, Jiwon, and our reps, Donna and Chris and other friends.

We were all happy to spend time together again.  From left to right: me, Solga, Mina, Allison and Dante.



We went for a hike together.  Here I am happy in a tree on top of a mountain.

Here Allison, Solga and Minjeong are also being happy in the tree.  Apparently, this is how monkey impressions are done in Korea.

At the end of our trip, someone off to the side of the road yelled "Canada!" at us as we walked past.  I was the only one from Canada in the group, and my dress was the only possible way he could have known that.

 Hiking Jiri-San

I am still walking like an overweight duck from the Dandelion community's hike up Jiri-San.  Autumn was on the trees.
On the way to the summit.

Geonweon and I raced to the top.  Technically, he beat me.

Jihong in front, Yehyeon in the back right with the phone, and Geonweon taking the photo.  Technically, Yehyeon's pack was heavier than mine.
After reaching the summit, we took this trail to a shelter to spend the night.

Serin and I did this part together. "Teacher, I am sleepy and hungry and tired."

After spending the night in the shelter, we headed back down the mountain.  As a Canadian tree planter, I felt it necessary to really show off how good I am at hiking.  So after I reached the bottom, I went back up to meet people and carry their bags.  Unfortunately, my brilliance at traversing the hiking trail on this occasion was offset by my going half-way up the mountain again on the wrong trail.  Still, Jiri-san was beautiful.










Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Neighbour Love and Romance 이웃 사랑과 로맨스

This is a devotional I shared at the Dandelion Community Church on October 15th.  Translated by Yehyouk Kim.


사랑 나무  Love Tree

I. The Relationship of Neighbour Love and Romance

I have been reading this book [Kierkegaard's Works of Love] for my morning devotionals since I arrived in the Dandelion Community.  It is a book about Christian love – the kind of love that Jesus commands us to have for our neighbours.

저는 민들레에 도착한 이후로  아침마다 아침 예배 시간에 이 책을 읽었습니다. 이 책은 기독교 사랑에 대한 책입니다 - 예수님이 우리에게 명령하신 이웃 사랑에 대한 책입니다.

This book has helped me to think about the relationship between the neighbour love that Jesus commands us to have and romantic or erotic love.  This is what I’d like to share with you about this morning.

이 책은 예수님이 우리에게 갖기를 명령하신 이웃 사랑과 낭만적 인 또는 에로틱 한 사랑 사이의 관계에 대해 생각하게 해주었습니다. 오늘 아침에 여러분과 얘기를 나누고 싶었습니다.

“Love” is a word that names many different things.  So, just because loving your neighbour as Jesus commanded and having a crush on someone are both called “love,” does not mean that they are the same thing.  Just because you fall in love does not mean you are following Jesus’ command.

"사랑"은 여러 가지 다른 이름을 짓는 단어입니다. 그래서, 예수님이 명하신 것처럼 당신의 이웃을 사랑하라는 명령이, 단순히 누군가에게 호감을 느끼기는 수준의 사랑이 아닙니다. 둘 다 "사랑"이라고 불리지만 둘이  똑같은 것을 의미하지는 않습니다. 당신이 사랑에 빠졌다고 해서 당신이 예수님의 명령을 따르고 있다는 것을 의미하지는 않습니다.

But if they are not the same thing, then how are neighbour love and romantic love related?  Are we supposed to act one way to our neighbour and another way to someone we are in love with?

그러나 이 두가지가 똑같지 않다면 이웃 사랑과 낭만적 사랑은 어떻게 관련되어 있습니까? 우리는 그냥 이웃에게 한 가지 방법으로 행동하고 또 우리가 사랑하는 사람에게는 다른 방법으로 사랑합니까?

Kierkegaard’s answer is to say, yes not everything we call “love” is neighbour love, but, for Christians, everything we call “love,” whatever else it is, it should also be neighbour-love.  This follows from the fact that everyone is our neighbour.  If everyone is our neighbour, then the person we love romantically is also our neighbour.  Therefore, we must also love the person we have romantic feelings for first and foremost as our neighbour.

Kierkegaard의 답변은 우리가 "사랑"이라고 부르는 모든 것이 이웃 사랑이라고 말하는 것이 아니라 그리스도인들에게 우리가 "사랑"이라고 부르는 모든 것이 무엇이든 간에 이웃 사랑이기도 합니다. 이것은 모두가 우리 이웃이라는 사실에서 따릅니다. 모두가 우리 이웃이라면, 우리가 낭만적으로 사랑하는 사람도 우리 이웃입니다. 그러므로 우리가 낭만적으로 사랑하는 사람도 이웃 사랑의 계명으로 먼저 사랑해야 한다는 것입니다.

II. Three Examples of Neighbour Love Transforming Romance 

I think this is the crucial insight for how to think about the ethics of dating: for us Christians, all love is first and foremost loving our neighbour as ourselves.  This changes the way we do romance.

저는 이것이 데이트의 윤리에 대해 생각하는 방법에 대한 결정적인 정답이라고 생각합니다. 우리 그리스도인들에게 사랑은 무엇보다도 먼저 우리 이웃을 우리 자신처럼 사랑하는 것에서 시작되어야 합니다. 이것은 우리가 로맨스를하는 방식을 바꿉니다.

I have three examples.

세 가지 예가 있습니다.

First, loneliness.  Sometimes we can feel lonely when we do not have someone to love.  Kierkegaard notes that, for human beings, love is experienced as a need.  But if romantic love is neighbour-love, then our need will not just be for the one special person we are thinking about.  This is because if our love is to be neighbour love, then our need is to love everyone.  For everyone is our neighbour.

첫째, 외로움. 때때로 우리는 사랑할 사람이 없을 때 외로움을 느낄 수 있습니다. Kierkegaard는 인간에게 사랑은 필요로 경험된다고 말합니다. 그러나 낭만적 인 사랑이 이웃 사랑이라면, 우리의 필요는 우리가 생각하고있는 한 특별한 사람을 위한 것이 아닙니다. 우리의 사랑이 이웃 사랑이 되는 것이면, 우리의 필요는 모든 사람을 사랑하기 때문입니다. 모두가 우리 이웃입니다.

So, we should not wallow in feelings of loneliness, as if we needed some particular person to make us happy.  If all love is to be neighbour-love, then the only real need is the need to always love our neighbour.  So, when we feel lonely, we must just start loving those we see, those we already know, those we bump into everyday.  The need to love one person in particular is weakness.  But the need to love everyone all the time is wealth and strength.

마치 우리를 행복하게 해주는 특별한 사람이 필요한 것처럼 외로움에 빠져서도 안됩니다. 모든 사랑이 이웃 사랑이된다면, 유일한 진정한 필요는 항상 우리 이웃 사랑을 사랑하는 것입니다. 그래서 우리가 외로움을 느낄 때, 우리는 우리가 이미 알고있는 사람들, 우리가 매일 부딪히는 사람들을 사랑해야 합니다. 특별히 한 사람만 사랑하는 마음은 우리에게 해로울 수 가 있습니다. 그러나 반대로 모든 사람을 항상 사랑하는 것은 우리에게 부와 힘이 됩니다.

Second, resentment.  Sometimes we can feel resentment toward people because of romance.  You might resent a girl you like when they don’t like you.  You might resent other people of your gender because they seem more successful than you.  But you cannot love someone as your neighbour and resent them.

둘째, 분개. 때때로 우리는 로맨스 때문에 사람들에 대한 분노를 느낄 수 있습니다. 당신을 좋아하지 않는 여자를 원망 할 수도 있습니다. 그들이 당신 보다 더 성공 했다 해서 원망하고 질투 할 수도 있습니다. 그러나 당신은 당신의 이웃으로서 누군가를 사랑할 수 없으며 그들을 원망 할 수 없습니다.

This follows from the fact that love always builds up.  When you resent someone, you want to tear them down.  You wish you could get back at them or that something bad would happen to them.  But neighbour love always builds up.  So, we must kill any resentment we feel and wish the best for everyone.

이것은 사랑이 항상 축적된다는 사실입니다. 당신이 누군가를 원망하고 그에게 화났을 때 당신은 그 사람이 잘못 됬으면 좋겠다는 생각을 할 것입니다. 그러나 이웃 사랑은 항상 쌓여 갑니다. 우리는 자기죽음으로써 남을 향한 미운 마음을 내려놓아야 합니다.

If all love is neighbour love, then we must build up even those who reject us, even those who are our rivals.

모든 사랑이 이웃 사랑이면, 심지어 우리를 거부하는 사람들조차도, 심지어 우리의 라이벌 인 사람들까지 세워야합니다.

Finally, group selfishness.  When you only seek what is good for you and ignore what is good for others, this is called “selfishness.”  When you only seek what is good for a group that you are a part of and ignore what is good for people outside the group, this is called “group selfishness.”  Sometimes people who fall in love can be guilty of group selfishness: when they only focus on each other and do not spend time on people they are not in love with.

마지막으로, 집단 이기심. 당신에게 좋은 것을 추구하고 다른 사람들에게 좋은 것을 무시할 때, 이것을 "이기심"이라고 부릅니다. 당신이 한 집단의 일원 일 때만 추구하고 그룹 밖에있는 사람들에게는 좋은 것을 무시하면 이것을 그룹의 이기심이라고 부릅니다. 때로는 사랑에 빠진 사람들은 서로에게만 집중하고 사랑에 빠진 사람들에게 시간을 낭비하지 않으면 서 집단 이기심의 죄를 범할 수 있습니다.

But since everyone you meet is your neighbour, then we cannot have this type of group selfishness.  The person you are in love with is your neighbour, but so is everyone else.  So, your relationship cannot separate you from those around you.  It must bless and build up the community you are a part of.

그러나 당신이 만나는 모두가 당신의 이웃이므로, 우리는 이런 유형의 집단 - 이기심을 가질 수 없습니다. 당신이 사랑하는 사람은 당신의 이웃이지만, 다른 사람들도 마찬가지입니다. 그래서, 당신의 관계는 당신 주위의 사람들과 당신을 분리시킬 수 없습니다. 당신이 속한 공동체를 축복하고 함께 세워 주어야합니다.

These are three examples of how I have thought about applying neighbour love to romantic love.  Because the world does not understand romantic love as neighbour love, the way we do romance will look different than the way the world does it.  We cannot fall into the traps of loneliness, resentment or group selfishness.

이것들은 제가 이웃 사랑을 로맨틱 사랑에 적용하는 것에 대해 어떻게 생각해 왔는지에 대한 세 가지 예입니다. 세상은 이웃 사랑으로서의 낭만적 인 사랑을 이해하지 못하기 때문에 세상과 다르게 보일 것입니다. 우리는 외로움, 분개 또는 집단 이기심의 함정에 빠질 수 없습니다.

III. C.S. Lewis as an Example

I think the English author, C.S. Lewis, is a good example of putting neighbour love before romantic love.

저는 영국 작가 C. S. Lewis가 낭만적 인 사랑 앞에 이웃 사랑을 보이는 좋은 본보기라고 생각합니다.

C.S. Lewis met his wife Joy when he was in his 50s or 60s.  She had read his books and travelled from the US to England to meet him.  When she was in England, she became very sick.  But she couldn’t receive care in the hospital because she was not covered by health insurance.  Even though C.S. Lewis was not yet in love with Joy, he married her so that she could receive medical care.  After this she recovered, and C.S. Lewis fell in love with her.  They enjoyed a few years together before she died.

루이스는 50 대 또는 60 대에있을 때 그의 아내 Joy를 만났습니다. 그녀는 그의 책을 읽고 그를 만나기 위해 미국에서 영국으로 여행했습니다. 그녀가 영국에 있었을 때, 그녀는 매우 아팠습니다. 그러나 그녀는 건강 보험에 가입하지 않았기 때문에 병원에서 치료를받을 수 없었다. C.S. Lewis는 아직 Joy와 사랑에 빠졌지 만, 그녀는 결혼하여 의료 혜택을받을 수있었습니다. 그 후 그녀는 회복했고 C.S. Lewis는 그녀와 사랑에 빠졌다. 그녀가 죽기 전에 그들은 몇 년을 함께 즐겼습니다.

C.S. Lewis loved Joy as his neighbour before he loved her as his lover.  In doing so, he became odd in the world; and he became a witness to Christ’s neighbour love.

루이스는 기쁨을 사랑하기 전에 조이를 이웃으로 사랑했습니다. 그렇게함으로써 그는 세상에서 이상하게되었습니다. 그는 그리스도의 사랑에 대한 증인이되었습니다.


Kierkegaard, Søren. Works of Love. Trans. Howard Hong. 1962. New York: Harper, 2009.


Monday, 2 October 2017

Growing Joy: Humour at the Dandelion Community (Also Chicken Man Begins!)

Humour, Vanity and Joy

I remember thinking once, when I was a youth, that I didn't want to be funny because that would only show that I liked it when others liked me.  I had just started reading C.S. Lewis, and remembered that C.S. Lewis condemned vanity as a vice.  And so, I resolved, there was no good reason for me to be funny.

I think probably, though, I was deceiving myself.  For why else did I not account for the fact that joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and that perhaps good humour might serve the cause of joy?  C.S. Lewis had also said that vanity not as bad as the harder, more self-centred type of pride which makes one not care what others think and feel at all.  I should have realized that humour could be used in the service of joy as a way to care about others.

I also did not see the connection between humour and honesty which I do now.  I have discovered that I am an odd enough person to sometimes make people laugh by doing nothing else than expressing myself honestly.  Maybe humour of this sort presupposes a sort of perspective on yourself that is at odds with vanity.  It is precisely not caring to hide the odd, funny bits about yourself in which this type of humour lies.

Humour at the Dandelion Community

In any case, the reason I am writing this post is because my time at the Dandelion Community, and South Korea in general, has been full of this kind of good, honest humour.  I hope Dante and Mina will not mind me saying that they are odd enough to be funny without trying.  And it has filled our community with one another with joy.

I admit that when I first heard, by email, that the YAMENer I would be staying with was a "comedian," I had my doubts.  Maybe it was the harder type of pride that led me to assume that Dante would be the kind of guy who had come to call himself a comedian because he thought he was funnier than he really was.

But, by God's mercy, Dante is not such a person.  He is a real comedian, and he is really funny.

As evidence, I would like to share this video with you, which Dante made a few days ago.


A Story or Two

Unfortunately, many of the jokes Dante, Mina and I share are such that I cannot write them down for you here without risking expulsion from the Mennonite Central Committee.

However, I think I would be willing to undergo the risk of sharing a story or two.

Many of you will know how important respecting your elders is in Korean culture.  And you must believe me that I have endeavored to do my best in this regard.  I am quick to give up my seat when an older person gets on the city bus.  I bow and say "Anyeonghaseyo?" to our elderly neighbors as they look doubtfully at me from their roadside fields.  When I'm called upon, I help out the little old ladies who all pile onto the morning bus, dragging their farm pickings along with them to sell in the town.

However, I must confess that the cultural adjustment has not always gone so smoothly.

Only last week, for example, I found myself giving my Korean teacher a piggyback around the YWCA concert hall, to the, may I say, excessive merriment of all the Southeast Asian women who also study Korean with us.  In fairness, though, in this case, it was not my fault.  I did not choose of my own accord to parade my Seonsengnim around in front of the whole school.  I would not have chosen of my own free will to introduce Canadian culture to Korea in the style of the half-time show at the Calgary Stampede.  No, the Koreans at the YWCA conceived of this display all on their own.  And, may I say, it was a punishment the likes of which gave me flashbacks to fourth grade, when I was made to sing the Canadian national anthem in front of the class sitting on Mrs. Hutchingson's lap.

Then there was that time, about two weeks ago, when a student's parent gave me an apple.  I sat down and took a break from splitting wood, and then tossed the apple core over the embankment.  Three minutes later, the generous parent returned with my apple core.  He was acting out the scene, quite dramatically I must say, of how the apple core had fallen from the sky and hit him on the head.

I wish I could say that was the last of it, but no.  There is something I did not confess to you about my adventures during my first week in Korea.  If you remember, I related how I had spent a beautiful, romantic night watching Korean musical performances at the historic site where Korean alphabet was invented.  The romance of the night was only increased as sporadic downpours made us open and close our umbrellas as we watched.

I did not relate, however, how the mystique of that night was somewhat punctured by a certain incident.  I confess that I neglected to mention how, after one such downpour, I had raised my umbrella up ever so carefully, so as to avoid hitting anyone as I collapsed it; how, by so carefully raising up my umbrella, in order to not disturb the romance of the night with even the slightest indiscretion, I proceeded, with a release of the umbrella's extraordinarily high-powered springs, to ever so carefully dump all its watery contents directly upon the elderly gentlemen sitting in front of me.

Yes, I confess to you now that MCC chose such a one as most fit to enter Korean culture and represent them.

I know I take a great risk in relating these stories to you.  But I think honesty and good humour demand it.  Yes, these stories are full of good humour, and I confess that the lion's share of it belongs to the Koreans I met over the past month and a half, for which I am certainly thankful!

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The First Two Weeks at Dandelion: A Report and Reflection on My Work

I have now been at Dandelion for two weeks.  So, it is about time I report what I have been up to.  As I confessed in my first post, however, I am a philosopher.  So, I couldn't help adding a little reflection as well.

For those who dislike reflection, I cannot guarantee that you will like any of this post.  However, I have added numbered sections so that you do not have to read too much of it.  Simply read sections I and II.  You could skip ahead and read IV, although I wouldn't recommend it.  Do not, under any circumstances, read section III.  This is even more important to remember if you also dislike poetry.

I.

While I was staying with Donna and Chris Rice, the MCC reps in Chuncheon, I picked up the habit of having devotions every morning.  I don't know whether or not the challenges I faced with all the newness that was a part of my first week in Korea helped me to thoughtlessly absorb this habit from Donna, who practiced it every morning.  In any case, although I have never done before, I now find myself starting my fourth week here with this habit.

It is a new thing for me to give myself time everyday to renew my mind, and then to be able to actively test my reflection through the day, as Paul writes about to the Romans, in order to discern and pursue what is "good and acceptable and perfect."  I think it is a great virtue of this Christian community that the way they live gives me the opportunity both to hard work and to have times of prayerful reflection of this kind.

II.

In my last post, I mentioned working in the chicken barns.  Every morning, Dante and I have helped with feeding the chickens, as well as collecting and getting the eggs ready to be shipped to Dandelion's customers.  I find this regular routine very enjoyable.

One of the first mornings that we did this, I noticed something about it that was unfamiliar to me.  The people in charge of the farm did not shut off certain -- what might be called -- ordinary, emotional responses to their work, that I was used to shutting off.  Let me explain.

One of our first days here, Dante and I found five or so dead chickens outside the barn.  They had been killed by an unidentified wild animal.  Perhaps a cat.  I thought it was unfortunate, but didn't dwell on it.  I found it unusual how Jinha, who is in charge of the chicken barns, looked shocked and saddened when we showed him the chickens that had been killed.  I wouldn't expect this response working for a chicken farm back home.

I had a similar experience when I was cutting weeds, which is another one of my tasks here.  I absentmindedly had cut some purple wild flowers while working on eliminating the weeds and grass beside the road.  I had assumed that they were just another weed, but when Dr. Kim, the headmaster here, saw what I was doing, he told me not to cut those ones.  The reason, I think, was that he liked the way they looked.

III.

In both cases, I would not simply say that a cultural difference was at play.  Yes, this is true enough.  However, even though I think in the culture where I grew up we would not respond the same way in these situations, I would still say that, in both cases, good, ordinary emotions, even as my own culture understands them, were displayed.

The traditions that are a part of my culture express the goodness of compassion for nonhuman creatures and sadness at the loss of beauty.  In my high school lit class, I read Robert Burns express compassion for a "wee, sleeket, cowran" mouse, whose house he had accidentally turned over as he plowed.  He calls to the fleeing mouse:

Thou need na start awa sae hasty,              You do not need to run away so hastily
          Wi’ bickerin brattle!                         little scurrying noise
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee            I would not chase you
          Wi’ murd’ring pattle!                       plow

And, lamenting his destruction of a beautiful flower, Burns writes:

Wee, modest, crimson-tippèd flow'r,
Thou's met me in an evil hour;
For I maun crush amang the stoure       I crushed among the flying dust
            Thy slender stem:
To spare thee now is past my pow'r,
            Thou bonie gem.

These are, I think, good, ordinary emotions to feel for animal and plant life that we work with.  And these poems show how they are not simply part of Dandelion culture, but a treasured part of the best of Western culture as well.

While tree planting, my colleagues and I would sometimes quietly express how we wished the forest were better taken care of (by whom?), or lament the fact that we could not spend more time simply appreciating the beauty around us (who could allow us to do that?).  When it came down to it, of course, we would forget such thoughts and all plant as fast as we could with no particular higher goal in mind.

I know some people will simply scoff at the idea of feeling love and appreciation for nature as a part of work life.  But that is neither here nor there.  The question is whether there is a good reason for overturning these ordinary human emotions in our work life.

I am part of a culture that has tended to put our work lives into a box which can be put in a corner away from emotions, like compassion or sadness at the loss of beauty, which fill other parts of our lives.  But what justifies this way of thinking?

I will state my view.  I think that we keep our work life in this box because it is convenient.  We do not have a good reason.  We simply do not want to worry about things like these at work.   After all, we have other things to think about; it is already hard enough to make a living.

When it comes right down to it, however, this is a form of moral heedlessness.  Back home, I did not have a good reason to shut off my capacity for compassion and beauty at work.  I simply did it because I wanted to make money and did not want the inconvenience of attending to life I was hurting or beauty I was destroying.

IV.

As I was fundraising, I had the idea that I really needed to make sure I worked hard and got stuff done when I was at the Dandelion Community.  Only in this way could I justify accepting all the money that friends, family and church members had given me. I still think this, and am happy for all the opportunities I have here to sweat and carry heavy things around.  

However, I now know better that this is not enough.

It is not enough only to do things for the community.  I am here to live well as a Christian disciple among other disciples.  So, I am learning not only to work hard, but to share meals; to spend full day after full day with friends, until our quirks, our struggles and our weaknesses cannot help but rise to the surface, and then to continue to be with each other as friends; and, yes, to reflect, to renew my mind, in order to test and find what, in boxes that I thought I had safely closed off to such things, is good, acceptable and perfect.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Arrival at the Dandelion Community / Dante


On Monday, August 28th, I arrived at the Dandelion Community.  I made the trip with Dante, my fellow Dandelion Community volunteer, Solger and Jiwon, who are in charge of us at MCC, and Hyeonjeong, who volunteered with MCC in California last year.  We drove from Chuncheon in the Northern part of South Korea to the Dandelion Community in the South.  This took about 5 hours.

With the exception of Hyeonjeong, who I met briefly last Fall in Abbotsford, these are people, who, in actual fact, I had met not more than a week and half before.  Yet I love them all very much indeed, and was happy to spend time together, including a night playing “truth or dare,” before they left in the middle of the next morning.

On the way to the Dandelion Community from our house in the morning

As I read over the first part of Rebekah Puddington’s blog again, I noticed many points of contact between our experiences.  Now I too know what the chicken barns here look like: modest structures covered by chicken wires with metal siding for a roof and face, and surrounded by an abundance of greenery.  I also now know what it is like to collect and pack eggs, something I too was well-prepared for with my previous work (in my case at Brian Ens’ chicken farm).  Now I also have concentrated to pick out words from the Korean language being spoken all around me.

A view of the Dandelion Community in the evening

But in one respect, my time has been quite different than previous SALTers.  In years past, SALTers have joined life in the Dandelion Community as the lone newcomer.   By contrast, my first few days at Dandelion have included the regular presence of Dante, another MCC volunteer (the title is YAMENer) from Indonesia.

In some important ways, Dante and I are similar.  We are both Christians interested in theology and committed to working for peace, and are both trying to give our best here at Dandelion.

In other ways, we are different.  I am an academic and a forestry worker, and he is a comedian (he has actually done a tour around Indonesia) and a youth pastor (his comedy tour was part of a movement for peace among Indonesian youth).  Hailing from a small town and the forests of British Columbia, I enjoy the remoteness and occasional silences at Dandelion.  Coming from Jacarta, one of the most populous and busy cities in the world, Dante misses the ability to find a shop nearby and seems to me to enjoy the more stimulating times.

In a down moment, Dante is more likely to start doing magic tricks for kids playing nearby, while I am more likely to open my copy of English Grammar for Today to prepare for teaching English.  We are different, but, I think, in ways that complement each other and hopefully benefit the community.

Dante won some "herb socks" -- yes, that's right, socks that smell like, and are presumably made of, herbs -- at a game we played with the students in the park.

I am very thankful to have had Dante with me as we have faced challenges together this first week.  At the same time, we are beginning to realize that coming here together means we have to be intentional about talking to other members of the community and to students.

There is, of course, more I could write.  In a future post, I’ll say more about what we have actually been doing, and also about meeting Dr. Kim, the founder of the community, who arrived last night.

Peace,


Robert

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Orientation Week (with pictures!)

A Philosopher's Introduction

I have not yet come to a conclusion about what this blog is about.  However, after a week in South Korea, I do know a bit better what it is not about.

My experience in only one week has been so full, it would stretch my ability as a writer to try to do any kind of justice to it.  This would be true, even if I had limitless time to write, and thought my readers had limitless attention spans.  Yet, because this is a blog, I want to write short posts, and -- for the most part -- do this relatively quickly.

So, I have come to a rather obvious conclusion: I will not be able to communicate the richness and variety of my experience to you in this blog.

At the same time, since I have not yet figured out what else this blog could be possibly be about, I will try to capture a bit of what my experience has been, as best I can.

What Happened in Outline

I arrived in Incheon Airport, near Seoul, last Friday night with Allison, my friend from Virginia and fellow MCC volunteer.  At the airport, I met Dante, the volunteer from Indonesia who will be with me at the Dandelion Community.  We were greeted by MCC staff, and fell asleep on the three hour bus ride to Chuncheon, where the MCC office is located.

Me, Allison and Dante in the big city

During the week, we got to know everyone in the MCC office here, and met many people from the local Anabaptist congregation.  This involved going to many restaurants and eating lots of Korean food.  We also had sessions throughout the week about Korean culture, language and history, as well as MCC's work on the Korean peninsula.

First Korean meal in Chuncheon with MCC staff

Dante and I will be leaving for the Dandelion Community on Monday.  Allison is going to another placement in South Korea tomorrow.

Two Memorable Experiences

1

It is Sunday evening and the sun had gone down.  Allison, Dante and I had just gone out for dinner with Dongyu, a founding member of the Anabaptist church that we attended in the morning, as well as a well-known citizen of Chuncheon and university professor.  He treated us to Chuncheon's famous Dakkalbi, a delicious chicken rib dish, and Patbingsu, a red bean shaved ice dessert.

Dongyu and the YALTers eating Patbingsu

Dongyu had dropped me off at a place I did not recognize.  I knew it was the wrong place when he dropped me off, but I had heard that in Korean culture publicly contradicting elders is not respectful.  I thought the right place would be near by, so I didn't make a fuss.

I soon found, however, that it was not nearby.  

First, I tried talking in Korean to the nearby security guard.  Somehow, the security guard concluded from my use of the Korean language on that occasion that I would be able to understand him only if he spoke veerrry sloooowwwly.  That turned out to be optimistic of him.

Some of you might think I should have been worried at that point.  You are probably right.  The night before, returning home after the daily sessions at the MCC office, I was unable even to correctly locate the doorway of the apartment where I was staying.  (This is something the South Korean MCCer who was guiding me home, thought was extremely funny.)  

I am nevertheless sometimes overcome by an irrational self-confidence (and the streets here are very safe).  So, I was not worried.  

I did recognize one road, and after phoning one of our MCC reps (whose apartment I am staying at), was able to make my way back.

2

Allison, Dante, Solger and I were visiting Seoul together.  Solger is the same above-mentioned MCCer.  We had been to a memorial for the Sewol Ferry, a protest for comfort women at the Japanese Embassy, a palace from the Joseon dynasty (1392-1897) called "Gyeongbokgung," and closer to South Korea's executive government building, called "Chongwadei" or "The Blue House," than Solger had ever been.

Statue of a Comfort Woman by the Japanese Embassy

Entering Gyeongbokgung


Us in front of The Blue House

After dinner, we decided to stay in Seoul a little longer than planned.  Solger had never been to Gyeongbokgung at night.  Only foreigners are permitted to buy tickets at the gate.  Moreover, they require one of the foreigners in a group of four to have a passport with them.  Dante had brought his passport, and so we decided to take the opportunity to see the palace at night.

When we got inside, we saw instruments and chairs set up outside Sujeongjeon Hall.  Sujeongjeon Hall is the place where the Korean alphabet and writing system, called "Hangul," was created.  This was a very significant achievement in Korean history.  Hangul, which is phonetic and easily learnt, was created to bring literacy to the common people of Korea.  Because of the work accomplished in this building, it took me only a few hours to start learning how to sound out written Korean words, rather than spending my life learning Chinese characters.

Sujeongjeon, the place where the Korean writing system was created

It was in front of this building that we watched a concert featuring, among other things, traditional Korean music, dancing, and a paly paly (very fast!) electric violin version of Vivaldi's four seasons.

The night concert at Sujeongjeon
It kept raining sporadically, twice or thrice turning into a downpour.  So, every five minutes or so, we, along with everyone in the seating area, would huddle under our umbrellas, and then close them all again as the rain stopped.  It was something special.

Friday, 18 August 2017

A Theological Introduction to My Trip to South Korea

I have arrived safely in South Korea, and even had a good night's sleep staying with the MCC representatives here.  I miss the new friends I made at orientation in Pennsylvania and friends and family back home, but am excited to learn and do my best here!  Below, I have a reflection, or better, a confession, about how I got to this point, which you may be interested in.
  
Thank you to Renea McKenzie, the editor at thinkingthroughchristianity.com, for helping me edit this piece.  A more polished version of the same reflection will soon appear on this website.


This confession is about my encountering Jesus at work in my home church and how, through this encounter, I now find myself on a plane headed to South Korea to volunteer with Mennonite Central Committee.
I grew up in a small town in Canada, attending a Mennonite Brethren church every Sunday with my family.  
My father is the owner of a successful business, and my mom is an elementary school teacher.  So, when I went away to study Philosophy at secular universities, it made me different from my family and many of the people I grew up around in some important ways.  My opinions and attitudes have been shaped in a dramatic way by my experience at university.
At the same time, however, my blue-collar background put me in a unique position to see how the concerns and opinions of blue collar people are not fairly represented and sometimes not even discussed in academic circles.  For example, in my experience, academics, when opining on business affairs, do not concern themselves with the specific pressures and responsibilities to clients and employees involved in running a successful business.  In my opinion, specific responsibilities like these are the real meat of ethical reflection.  Yet, rather than engage with the ideas of business owners like my dad, I found that my academic colleagues often simply treated the views of the working-class as too far gone to be calmly discussed in seminars.
This lack of communication between academic, “ivory tower” and blue collar, “salt of the earth” people is part of the reason why I sometimes wonder along with Wendell Berry what it would be like if more academics returned home and became a part of the life of their home communities.
What if academics in Canada and the US returned to be a part the life at home?  That might be pretty interesting!  This might not be as visibly heroic or sexy as protesting each other, but maybe it is part of the path to healing the divide between working class and academic people in our countries.
Academics like me will, of course, think they have something of great value to contribute to their home churches.  My confession below witnesses to the way Christians who wander from home can be held accountable by their home churches.
I returned home from university with the strong pacifist convictions that the Mennonite churches I grew up in had abandoned, as well as the analytical ability to back up and teach my new-found convictions.  I was given a chance to share what I learned, by teaching a series on pacifism in Adult Sunday School and preaching several sermons.
I discovered that, quite opposed to the impression I received from university seminars, blue collar people often have very pointed, common-sense criticism of philosophers, who perhaps, at times get caught up in their webs of abstract reasoning.  As I taught my church about pacifism, one such criticism that kept coming up was “Yes, but what does this mean in practice?”
It was, and remains, a good point. I had failed to present pacifism as more than merely an abstract ethical argument.  Yet Christian pacifism presumes Jesus is king over the world, and that he will show up when we follow his example of nonviolent love.  This does not mean that we will always be successful in the short-term; rather, just as Jesus who was crucified is now alive, so too, if we are faithful to Christ’s example, will be included by God in bringing about his renewal of all things.  
So, we read in Revelation 6 about the fifth seal opened by the Lamb, where the martyrs, whose blood has collected under the altar, wait for the coming of God’s kingdom.  Their deaths are not in vain but treated by God as significant for the inauguration of his kingdom (vs. 9-11).
At least, that’s how I – the academic – would say it.  But, in short, my church was right.
So, now I am on a plane headed to South Korea to see what I can figure out about peacebuilding.  So, I think, if we academics are presumptuous enough to think we have something of interest to contribute to our churches (and in writing for TTC, I think I, at least, am that presumptuous), we should also be humble enough to understand that our churches can make us more faithful witnesses to Christ’s nonviolent love on the cross.